Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
ARKANSAS STATE: Thanks in large part to 21 unanswered second-half points, the Red Wolves cruised to a 45-23 home win over ULM in a battle for first place in the Sun Belt Conference. For the fifth time this season, Arkansas State (7-3, 5-1 Sun Belt) posted at least 500 total yards. It was led by another outstanding effort by Ryan Aplin (26-of-34, 334 yards, two TDs, INT), who threw for 300 yards for the second consecutive week. He also added 44 rushing yards and his fifth rushing touchdown of the season. David Oku took advantage of 22 carries, cashing them in for a career-high 131 yards and three touchdowns. For the second straight week, freshman J.D. McKissic set a career high in receptions, finishing the game with 12 catches for 102 yards. ASU has guaranteed itself a winning record for the eighth straight season, and it will try to take another step toward claiming the conference championship this week when it faces Troy on the road.
FIU: The Panthers (2-8, 1-5 Sun Belt) enjoyed an off week after recording their second win of the season on Nov. 3 against South Alabama. They will resume action this Friday at Florida Atlantic.
FLORIDA ATLANTIC: The Owls went on the road and shocked the bowl-eligible Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, 37-28, as they won their second game in the last three weeks. Graham Wilbert was impressive in the victory, completing 23-of-36 passes for 257 yards and a pair of scores. Graham also had a rushing touchdown. While both scoring passes were hauled in by Daniel McKinney (four receptions, 48 yards), it was Williams Dukes who had a career day receiving, catching nine passes for 104 yards. The ground game had a difficult time getting going as the team averaged just 2.5 yards per carry on 39 attempts, but Damian Fortner punched in a crucial score in the fourth quarter. The defense played well too, forcing four turnovers. FAU (3-7, 2-4 Sun Belt) will have a short turnaround this week as it is set to face FIU on Friday night.
LOUISIANA: The Ragin' Cajuns put together a fantastic effort for 58 minutes of their game against nationally-ranked Florida over the weekend, but they surrendered two touchdowns in the final two minutes to fall in a 27-20 final. With the game tied at 20-20 in the waning seconds, the Cajuns tried to punt the ball away and play for overtime, but Florida blocked the punt and returned it 36 yards for the touchdown to deliver the crushing blow. The offense couldn't do much against the vaunted UF defense, gaining a mere 267 yards. Terrance Broadway completed 16-of-23 passes for 171 yards and while he didn't score, he played turnover-free football. Harry Peoples finished with 10 catches for 73 yards, and Alonzo Harris rushed for 68 yards and a score. Despite the late breakdown, the defense played well, holding the Gators to just 311 total yards. Louisiana (5-4) returns to Sun Belt Conference action this week against visiting Western Kentucky.
MIDDLE TENNESSEE: The Blue Raiders (6-3, 4-1 Sun Belt) lost ground in the race for the conference title but only because they were off last week. Middle Tennessee steps back into action on Saturday, taking on South Alabama in Mobile.
NORTH TEXAS: After getting down 14-7 in the first half, North Texas finished strong by scoring the game's final 17 points as the Mean Green toppled South Alabama, 24-14. The rushing attack accounted for just under 200 yards, and it was anchored by a couple of long touchdown runs by Jeremy Brown (51 yards) and Brandin Byrd (85 yards). Byrd finished with 109 yards on 15 carries. The same type of success was not found by quarterback Derek Thompson, who completed just 12-of-28 passes for 106 yards and a touchdown. North Texas (4-6, 3-3) buckled down late in the game on defense, as it held South Alabama off the scoreboard in the fourth quarter and it also recovered two fumbles. With wins in its last two games, UNT will become bowl eligible, and it will start its stretch run this Saturday at ULM.
SOUTH ALABAMA: The Jaguars appeared to be in control early in their recent clash with North Texas, but they faltered down the stretch in what turned out to be a 24-14 loss. Ross Metheny completed 23-of-45 passes for 233 yards and a touchdown, and it was the fourth time in the last five weeks that he has thrown for at least 200 yards since becoming the team's starting quarterback. Jereme Jones was the primary beneficiary of Metheny's passes as he caught five balls for 72 yards, including a 13-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Kendall Houston led the team in rushing with 42 yards and a touchdown. The USA defense played very well, holding North Texas to just 303 yards of total offense and only 12 first downs. South Alabama (2-8, 1-5 Sun Belt) will attempt to halt its three-game losing streak this week at home against Middle Tennessee.
TROY: Behind a very creative game plan, the Trojans took down Navy in a non- conference bout, 41-31, to snap a two-game losing streak. Despite not getting the start under center, backup quarterback Deon Anthony saw plenty of action as he completed 9-of-12 passes for 93 yards and a touchdown, while also running the ball seven times for 56 yards and two scores. Even with his role diminished, Corey Robinson still had a great game, as he missed on just three pass attempts (25-of-28) while throwing for 322 yards and a touchdown. Chandler Worthy caught six passes for 64 yards and a touchdown, and Chip Reeves led the team with eight grabs for 88 yards. Running back Shawn Southward amassed 81 total yards and scored a rushing touchdown in the first quarter. Troy (5-5) will return to conference action this Saturday when it celebrates Homecoming against Arkansas State.
ULM: The Warhawks dropped their second consecutive game last Thursday night by falling to the Arkansas State Red Wolves, 45-23, in a battle for first place in the Sun Belt Conference. Cody Wells had a busy night filling in for the injured Kolton Browning, completing 37-of-53 passes for 357 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Brent Leonard continued his outstanding play of late by hauling in a career-high 14 receptions for 134 yards. He has been one of the best receivers in the country in recent weeks, recording 34 receptions for 428 yards and five touchdowns in the past three games. Monterrell Washington was outstanding both rushing the ball (62 yards, TD) as well as catching it out of the backfield (four receptions, 46 yards, TD). The defense was torched by Arkansas State for 534 yards. ULM (6-4, 4-2 Sun Belt) will try to halt its skid at home this Saturday against North Texas.
WESTERN KENTUCKY: Turnovers will kill you, and the Hilltoppers learned that first-hand over the weekend as they were guilty of four giveaways in suffering a disappointing home loss to Florida Atlantic, 37-28. Kawaun Jakes put forth his worst effort of the year under center, completing just 14-of-26 passes for 169 yards with two touchdowns to go along with three interceptions. Despite the setback, running back Antonio Andrews was a beast yet again, racking up 340 all-purpose yards (88 rushing, 71 receiving, 52 punt return, 129 kick return) and he had a touchdown both rushing and receiving. Even with his huge day, Andrews snapped his streak of consecutive 100-yard rushing games at seven. On the defensive side of the ball, Andrew Jackson tallied a career-high 19 tackles, but WKU (6-4, 3-3 Sun Belt) disappointed as a whole defensively by allowing four touchdowns. The team will try to snap a two-game slide this Saturday when it plays at Louisiana.